Thomas Sowell

Clint Eastwood's movie character "Dirty Harry" Callahan was clean compared to Dirty Harry Reid, the Senate Democrats' minority leader. Callahan may have roughed up the bad guys but Senator Dirty Harry Reid smears anybody for any reason.

 While Senator Reid's cheap shot that President Bush was a "loser" -- a strange label for someone who has beaten Reid's party twice -- got a certain amount of notice in the media, a far worse remark by Senator Dirty Harry is that Michigan judge and federal judicial nominee Henry Saad has some things in his FBI file that should give Senators pause before confirming him.

 What makes this dirty is that FBI files contain anything that anybody has said about you, whether it is true or untrue. That is why FBI files are confidential, because they include unsubstantiated statements that have not been evaluated by anybody.

 Most Senators -- including Dirty Harry Reid -- have not and cannot see what is in the FBI file on Judge Saad because only members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are allowed to see that file. If any member of that committee said anything about that file to Senator Reid, that member violated confidentiality.

 Even Judge Saad himself cannot see the file, so he has no way of knowing what Senator Reid is referring to -- and therefore no way to defend himself against whatever unknown statement may be there. Nor is there any way for him or us to know whether whatever is in the file is serious or trivial.

 We have only the word of Senator Dirty Harry Reid.

 It so happens that my own FBI file, compiled back in the 1970s when President Ford nominated me to the Federal Trade Commission, contains a claim that I was a Communist. Not even the people who were opposed to my nomination took that seriously. But anonymous statements to the FBI are a way to knife someone in the back.

 Obviously the statement about me was made by someone who was both hostile to me and ignorant enough of my politics to think that this charge would fly. That narrows down the suspects and I have a pretty good idea who it was.

 But the point here is that anybody can say anything to the FBI during one of these investigations, which is why the files are kept confidential, leaving things in them to be evaluated later on by a few authorized people. The statement against Judge Saad might easily have come from someone who lost a case in his court.

 Why is Senator Reid making insinuations about unknown and unsubstantiated statements in Judge Saad's confidential FBI file? Because Dirty Harry is desperate.

 It is not just that a showdown on judicial nominees is pending in the Senate. Senator Reid's Democratic Party has been losing elections consistently in the past few years.

 In the 2000 elections, they lost the White House during peace and prosperity, which is usually a slam dunk for the party in power. They even lost Congressional seats in 2002, a midterm election in the midst of a controversial war, both of which usually mean that the opposition party picks up seats.

 After the most recent elections last year, the Democrats ended up a minority party in both Houses of Congress, with Republicans controlling not only the White House but most of the governorships and state legislatures across the country.

 It is desperation time for the Democrats and Dirty Harry Reid is just one of those who is showing it. Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean's denunciation of the President as "despicable" is just one of his bright sayings that recalls his famous primal scream during the Democratic primaries last year.

 Senate Democrats' threat to obstruct the normal functioning of the Senate if Republicans stop them from filibustering judicial nominees is another sign of their desperation -- and the venom to which desperation often leads.

 Even to threaten to obstruct the operation of the Senate during a war is something that boggles the mind, whether or not the threat is actually carried out. It also boggles the mind to see liberals defending filibusters, whose best known use in the past has been to block civil rights legislation.

 What they are really defending is the right of those who lost an election to prevent those who won from governing. Dirty Harry Reid is the right man for that kind of job.

Thomas Sowell

Thomas Sowell is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institute and author of The Housing Boom and Bust.

Creators Syndicate